Concor Buildings recently completed a new three-star safari lodge at Skukuza restcamp in the Kruger National Park. Developed by South African National Parks (SANParks), the exciting development adds a new dimension to the Kruger’s offering.

Planned and constructed as a ‘green building’, Skukuza Safari Lodge boasts 128 units, including 87 standard rooms, 20 family rooms and 13 universal rooms with easy access for wheelchairs.

Facilities at the lodge include a restaurant, bar, meeting rooms, gym, pool and laundry as well as overnight accommodation for 16 staff. With a focus on environmental care, the lodge is designed to combine the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Principles as well as the requirements of the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA). This means that targets for lower energy usage as well as water savings are also built into the planning.

Work began when the Concor Buildings team moved onto site in February 2017. Practical completion was reached in October 2018, and the team plans to leave site at the end of March 2019. According to Concor Buildings’ site agent, Christopher Martin, the environmental focus was taken on board by the team and applied with commitment in various ways.

“There were over 50 existing trees on the site, including two iconic baobabs in pristine condition,” says Martin. “We worked hard to accommodate important natural resources like these, even redesigning the parking areas and moving one of the buildings to be more sensitive to the existing landscape.”

In line with green building requirements, the two-level structure does not protrude above tree level, minimising its visual impact. Advances in lightning protection have been harnessed, with integrated protectors being used in place of the tradition lightning poles that are very tall and generally unsightly.

Architectural timber is a prominent feature of the lodge, with laminate saligna beams used for long-span trusses. Thatched roofing and grass ceilings add to the natural ambience, along with design elements from local cultures. While making every effort to be non-intrusive, the lodge is a substantial construction with 5 200m2 of decking. More than 3 600m3 of concrete was poured over 150t of reinforced bar and 1.8 million bricks were laid. The coverage of roof thatching measures over 3 600m2, while 5 000m2 of sheeting was used.

In recognition of the authentically wild surroundings of the lodge, an important use of the concrete was in the bases of the game fence. The fence has been built all around the lodge, with substantial bases measuring in size from 1.5m by 1.5m to 1m by 1m.

“Waste was carefully managed on site, with the assistance of a contracted specialist to help us sort and recycle waste,” Martin says. “As the project progressed, we were also able to contribute towards restoring and rehabilitating some of the old borrow pits in the area.”

An ongoing challenge was the distance between the site and the towns from which products and services were sourced. Being two hours from Nelspruit, for instance, added to the logistical burden and lengthened lead-times, especially considering the road speed restrictions within the Kruger Park.

“Transporting readymix concrete from the batching plant in Hazyview was a particular challenge,” says Martin. “The distance factor was compounded by the high ambient day-time temperatures, which could reach 45°C during our building phase. Adding a retarding admixture allowed us to extend the concrete’s workability window to two hours.”

The movement of workers between their homes and work was also an onerous process that required careful management. While Concor Buildings exceeded the client’s brief by employing 100% of general labour from local communities, those communities could still be up to 150km from site. Training was an important part of the project, upskilling local workers in terms of safety practice, concrete work, bricklaying, plastering and plumbing.

To combat rhino poaching, security measures in the Kruger Park have had to be stepped up. These stringent measures affect the movement of everyone in the park, including construction workers. The necessary checks and procedures added to transportation cycle times but simply had to be managed by the team in a responsible way.

Despite the remote location, the project promoted local suppliers by spending more than the required 30% of procurement value within 150km of the site, using vendors with B-BBEE Level 3 or higher.